An inexpensive drug reduces virus deaths, scientists say.
Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they have identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial of the drug in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid could reduce deaths significantly for hospitalized patients.
The steroid, dexamethasone, reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving only oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug in patients who did not need respiratory support.
Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said National Health Service doctors would begin treating patients with the drug on Tuesday afternoon.
The government started stockpiling dexamethasone several months ago because it was hopeful about the potential of the drug, Mr. Hancock said, and now has 200,000 doses on hand.
“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in Covid-19,” said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment.”
Professor Horby said that dexamethasone should now become the “standard of care in these patients,” noting that it is inexpensive, widely available and can be used immediately.
Officials in Tulsa, Okla., are warning that President Trump’s planned campaign rally on Saturday — his first in over three months — is likely to worsen an already troubling spike in coronavirus infections and could become a disastrous “super spreader.”
They are pleading with the Trump campaign to cancel the event, slated for a 20,000-person indoor arena — or at least move it outdoors.
“It’s the perfect storm of potential over-the-top disease transmission,” said Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa health department. “It’s a perfect storm that we can’t afford to have.”
Tulsa County, which includes the city of Tulsa, tallied 89 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its one-day high since the virus’s outbreak, according to the Tulsa Area Emergency Management Agency. The number of active coronavirus cases climbed from 188 to 532 in a one-week period, a 182-percent increase; hospitalizations with Covid-19 almost doubled.
“There’s just nothing good about this, and particularly in an enclosed arena,” said Karen Keith, a Tulsa County commissioner who oversees the area where the rally is supposed to take place. “I don’t want people to lose a parent. I don’t want them to lose a grandma. I don’t want them to lose a family member over this.”
Ms. Keith said that the rally was likely to draw gawkers and protests outside the BOK Center, the arena where the event is planned. A large overflow crowd could be accommodated at a convention center a block away, where Mr. Trump said on Monday that 40,000 others would congregate for his speech. The president also said in a tweet on Monday that “almost one million people” had requested tickets for the event.
Mr. Trump on Monday said that criticism of the rally was the result of the news media “trying to Covid Shame us on our big Rallies.” Conservatives have claimed a double standard around large gatherings in recent weeks after millions of Americans attended protests, often inches from one another, over the death of George Floyd.
Cases of the coronavirus in prisons and jails across the United States have soared in recent weeks, even as the overall daily infection rate in the nation has remained relatively flat.
The number of prison inmates known to be infected across the country has doubled during the past month, to more than 68,000. Prison deaths tied to the coronavirus, too, have risen by 73 percent since mid-May. The total is now more than 600.
By now, the five largest known clusters of the virus in the United States are not inside nursing homes or meatpacking plants, but inside corrections institutions, according to data collected by The New York Times on confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.
And the risk of more cases appears imminent: The swift growth in virus cases behind bars comes as demonstrators arrested during large protests against police brutality in recent weeks have often been placed in crowded holding cells in local jails that were already battling virus outbreaks.
Across the country, the response by corrections officials to testing and care for inmates and workers has been muddled and uneven. In interviews, prison and jail officials acknowledged that their approach has largely been based on trial and error, and that an effective, consistent response remains elusive.
“If there was clearly a right strategy, we all would have done it,” said Dr. Owen Murray, a University of Texas Medical Branch physician who oversees correctional health care at dozens of Texas prisons. “There is no clear-cut right strategy here. There are a lot of different choices that one could make that are going to be in-the-moment decisions.”
That inconsistent response has contrasted with efforts to halt the spread in other known incubators of the virus: Much of the cruise ship industry has been closed down. Staff and residents of nursing homes in a number of states now face compulsory testing. And many meat processing plants have been closed for extensive cleaning.
As the toll in prisons has increased, so has fear among inmates who say the authorities have done too little to protect them.
“It’s like a sword hanging over my head,” said Fred Roehler, 77, an inmate at a California prison who has chronic inflammatory lung disease and other respiratory ailments. “Any officer can bring it in.”
National retail sales in the United States rebounded in May as thousands of stores and restaurants reopened after lockdowns were lifted and federal stimulus checks and tax refunds fueled a burst of spending.
Total sales, which include purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants, rose 17.7 percent in May from the previous month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. That followed a 14.7 percent plunge in April, the largest monthly decline in nearly three decades of record-keeping, and an 8.3 percent decline in March.
Economists had expected a bounce back from April, when widespread business closures drove retail sales to their lowest level since 2013.
The rise in May is the largest monthly surge on record — drawing a celebratory Twitter post from President Trump — but the retail industry is nowhere near back to normal. Overall sales were still down 8 percent from February. Some categories, like clothing, were down as much as 63 percent from a year ago.
After more than a month of quarantine, May brought a tentative restart of brick-and-mortar retail across most of the country, with major chains like Macy’s and Gap reopening hundreds of stores. Some restaurants that had either closed or shifted their business to delivery and curbside pickup also reopened for in-person dining.
Driving some of the sales gains was warm weather, a sense of relief after weeks cooped up at home and optimism from some that the worst of the pandemic could be over. But they were also lifted by stimulus money — totaling $1,200 per recipient, plus $500 per child — that will run out in the coming months, with no indications that Congress intends to pass another round of assistance.
“I think a lot of it is lockdown fatigue,” said Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global. “I would caution not to be fooled by this large gain. We still have a long way to go in repairing the economy.”
Representative Ilhan Omar’s father dies of virus complications.
Representative Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota, said on Monday that her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, had died from complications of the coronavirus.
“No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him,” Ms. Omar said in a statement. “My family and I ask for your respect and privacy during this time.”
Ms. Omar’s mother died when she was 2, and when she was 8, her extended family fled Somalia’s civil war, and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya. In 1995, they sought asylum in the United States, settling first in Arlington, Va., and later in Minneapolis, which has a large Somali population.
Her father, a teacher in Somalia, picked up work driving taxis and later got a job at the post office. Ms. Omar became a citizen in 2000, when she was 17.
Ms. Omar, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress in 2018, has spoken of how her father’s words of advice helped her navigate life. When she was bullied at school, he “sat me down, and he said, ‘Listen, these people who are doing all of these things to you, they’re not doing something to you because they dislike you,’” she said in an interview the year she was elected.
U.S. pork producers remained open to feed Americans. Then they exported a record amount to China.
Smithfield Foods was the first company to warn in April that the coronavirus pandemic was pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply.” Tyson Foods also sounded the alarm, saying that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from the nation’s supply chain as plants were being forced to close because of outbreaks.
That same month, Smithfield sent China 9,170 tons of pork, one of its highest monthly export totals to that market in the past three years. Tyson exported 1,289 tons of pork to China, the most since January 2017.
In all, a record amount of the pork produced in the United States — 129,000 tons — was exported to China in April.
After slaughterhouses in several states were closed when thousands of workers tested positive and dozens died, the industry publicly lobbied the Trump administration to intervene with state and local officials or risk major meat shortages across American grocery stores. Indeed, some retailers put limits on the amount of meat customers could buy, and the fast-food chain Wendy’s, at one point, ran low on hamburgers.
But the meatpackers, including Smithfield, which China’s largest pork producer bought in 2013, did not emphasize, at least not publicly, that keeping the plants open would also protect their long-term investments in exporting to a country that is vital to their growth.
For months, Beijing residents learned to look warily on any visitors who might bring the coronavirus into the city and spread infections. Now, they are potential targets of monitoring, quarantine and suspicion across China after a burst of more than 100 infections in the capital since last week.
Dozens of cities and provinces across China have in recent days stepped up monitoring and quarantine measures for people from Beijing after the government confirmed a flare-up of new cases that was traced to the Xinfadi wholesale food market in the city’s south. At least one city — Daqing, an oil-producing city in the northeast — more or less signaled that all people from Beijing should stay away.
“In view of the rapidly escalating epidemic control developments in Beijing, from today individuals coming from Beijing to Daqing must undergo 21 days of isolation,” the city authorities announced on Monday, according to The Beijing News. The Daqing health authorities also “recommended that residents do not venture to Beijing for now unless it is essential.”
Harbin, another city in northeast China, ordered that all arrivals from Beijing go into “centralized quarantine” — which usually means confinement to an assigned hotel or dormitory room — while they undergo two nucleic acid tests to check if they have the virus.
Beijing has reinstated some wider controls in an effort to stifle the spread of the virus. The city postponed a scheduled return to classrooms by some elementary students. Taxis and ride services have been ordered not to leave the city, and restaurants have banned banquets. The lockdown of residents — preventing them from leaving their housing compounds or receiving visitors — expanded on Tuesday to seven neighborhoods in the west of Beijing, where an infected person had visited a market.
Even so, the quarantine steps and general anxiety about the outbreak in Beijing have underscored how even limited outbursts of new infections could frustrate efforts to return to normal in China and other countries.
Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, has made defending Beijing from mass infections a priority. City officials are under particular pressure to extinguish the new outbreak quickly.
“Make containing the outbreak the most important and urgent task for now,” Cai Qi, the Communist Party secretary of Beijing, and a protégé of Mr. Xi, said at a meeting of officials on Monday. “Adopt the most resolute, decisive and strictest measures.”
Germany introduces a tracking app. Norway halts one.
German government officials and business executives on Tuesday introduced a smartphone app to trace the spread of the coronavirus.
The Corona-Warn-App, which was developed in less than two months for a cost of 20 million euros ($22.5 million), uses Bluetooth to warn users if they come into proximity with someone who has tested positive for the virus. Use of the app is voluntary.
“You’ve noticed that this is not the first corona app available globally, but I am convinced that it is the best,” said Helge Braun, the chief of staff for Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The rollout comes as Germany loosens restrictions amid steady but low levels of new infections. Because Germans are famously concerned about their privacy, the data used by the app is not stored in a central database, and is inaccessible to anyone other than the individual users. The app’s source code has been made public.
Privacy concerns have put the brakes on other tracing apps in Europe. On Monday, Norway announced it would halt the use of its app, and delete all data collected so far, after criticism from the Norwegian Data Protection Authority.
“This app has been a huge fiasco,” said Ashild Bruun-Gundersen, a member of Parliament who had strongly criticized the app. “The technology doesn’t work, the effect didn’t produce and the privacy protection was not tended to.”
And in the Netherlands, the introduction of an app has been postponed over privacy concerns.
After declaring the coronavirus pandemic eradicated last week, New Zealand authorities on Tuesday confirmed two new cases in travelers who had returned from Britain, ending the country’s 24-day streak without new infections.
The two cases were confirmed in female relatives in their 30s and 40s, who tested positive after being released early from a state-managed quarantine, the country’s director-general of health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, told reporters at a news conference.
“A new case is something we hoped we wouldn’t get, but it’s also something we have expected and planned for,” he said, adding that New Zealand had maintained its contact tracing and testing capabilities to respond to new cases.
The two women arrived in Wellington via Doha, the capital of Qatar, and Brisbane, Australia, on June 7, but were granted a compassionate exemption to travel by private vehicle to Auckland on June 13 after a close family member died.
Dr. Bloomfield said he did not believe the women had infected anyone else in New Zealand, given that they had not used any public facilities during their journey and had close contact with only a single family member since arriving in Wellington.
Here are other developments from around the world:
According to a new modeling study, roughly 1.7 billion people worldwide — 22 percent of the global population — have underlying health conditions of diabetes or diseases that affect the heart and lungs and make them the group most vulnerable to the coronavirus. The data could help health officials focus containment efforts on people vulnerable to the virus’s most dangerous effects and, perhaps, eventually prioritize them for vaccination.
Olena Zelenska, the wife of the president of Ukraine, has been hospitalized after testing positive last week for the coronavirus, officials in Kyiv said on Tuesday. Ms. Zelenska has pneumonia in both lungs “of moderate severity” and is not in need of oxygen support, the office of Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a statement.
Hong Kong will relax some social-distancing restrictions on Thursday, allowing wedding banquets and live music to resume and lifting the limit on public gatherings to 50 people from eight, the city’s secretary of health, Sophia Chan, said on Tuesday. The semiautonomous Chinese city has had almost no coronavirus cases in recent weeks, but the government has cited social-distancing rules in rejecting proposals for large political demonstrations.
Hungary’s government said it would end Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s power to rule by decree, granted earlier this year to combat the coronavirus. But critics said the legislation, which would go into effect by Saturday, will cement into everyday use the sweeping powers claimed by Mr. Orban to fight the virus.
Reporting was contributed by Livia Albeck-Ripka, Chris Buckley, Michael Corkery, Thomas Erdbrink, Rebecca Griesbach, Christine Hauser, Sapna Maheshwari, Jonathan Martin, Tiffany May, Katie Rogers, Christopher F. Schuetze, Libbie Seline, Mitch Smith, Kaly Soto, Eileen Sullivan, Anton Troianovski, Amber Wang, Timothy Williams and David Yaffe-Bellany.